The Migration Policy Institute published its top ten migration stories of 2006. Topping the list: Europe’s turn from multiculturalism in immigration policy and insisting on strict assimilation of new arrivals.

In 2006, European politicians dealt multiculturalism numerous public blows, which the media was only too happy to cover. Multiculturalism, policymakers essentially said, has failed to adequately integrate immigrants and their descendants.

Since the late 1990s, Europe’s emphasis on strict integration policy has increased: learn our language, our history, our culture, and live by our laws and values. The UK, which didn’t require a citizenship test until 2005, fully implemented the test this year, and Germany’s regional governments introduced tests on top of the 600-hour, federally mandated language courses.

The article continues with Netherlands’ stricter laws and contraversial DVD, as well as Denmark’s cartoon of Muhammed.

Multiculturalism’s abandonment may seem practical, new immigrant populations not weaving themselves into the fabric of society. But something should be kept in mind: ordinary Europeans do not make an effort to welcome new immigrants. Most North Africans and Muslims in France (many of whom are citizens by birth) are excluded from top professions, and they are pushed to the banlieus (the peripheries of cities) where they live among other immigrants, not ‘typical’ Frenchmen.

The other problem is defining what a citizen is. The Dutch DVD tells immigrants to expect public kissing and topless sunbathing. OK, tolerance should be expected. However, there is no single Dutchman: such a thing exists in the imagination, and differences require tolerance anyway.

Actually, Jack Straw’s comments, quoted in the article, surprised me:

Communities are bound together partly by informal chance relations between strangers, people being able to acknowledge each other in the street or being able to pass the time of day. That’s made more difficult if people are wearing a veil. That’s just a fact of life.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Out in public, identities are challenged as people with differing ideas and comportments confront one another. Acknowledging this seems to indicate acceptance of cultural differences. But the burqa as an obstacle? What is Straw looking for: beedy, deviant eyes?

I’m not against integration, but multiculturalism should, and could, be a policy that allows it to happen, creating an environment in which communities fuse together, their differences, without being destroyed, thinned out until they mix together.

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